B.C. announces changes to long-term care visits, booster shot timeline, isolation periods

Photo credit/Province of British Columbia

B.C. will be shortening the timeline for booster shots, limiting visits to long-term care, and reducing the isolation period for fully vaccinated people.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says these changes are in response to how rapidly the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading.

Invitations for a third dose of the COVID vaccine will now be sent six months after the second dose. Previously the province was aiming to have everyone get their third shot of the COVID vaccine six to eight months following their second dose.

“We know that as we started our booster dose program, we knew that around six to eight months was a good time to boost that antibody response for most people, especially for people who have immune systems didn’t develop a strong support from that from the beginning,” Henry said. ” We’re now moving up the timing to six months for most people.”

Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Program, says the booster shot enhances immunity to the coronavirus.

“The booster will provide enhanced immunity and we know that after six months now the evidence is becoming clear that our immunity does wane,” Ballem said. “And so really the next phase of our campaign is going to adjust a bit and be focused on trying to get the rest of our population vaccinated as close as possible to a six month interval.”

Henry says pregnant people are particularly at risk for severe illness impacting the mother and baby, so they will be prioritized for third doses.

She says pregnant people should call the COVID vaccine call center at 1-833-838-2323 to self-identify as pregnant in order to be prioritized.

“People who are pregnant we know are at higher risk of severe illness from Omicron that can affect both them and their baby, which means we are now prioritizing your access as well to booster doses,” Henry said. “If you are pregnant and that six months after your second dose. You are eligible now for your booster dose regardless of your age.”

READ MORE: B.C. reports record-high 4,383 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, 460 in Island Health

The process to book your appointment for a booster shot will be slightly different than before.

“In order to get an appointment, you have to get an email or a text message from the government directly saying that you are ready to get a booster” explained Lina Zambrano, a pharmacist at Fort Royal Pharmacy.

She says after being notified, you can then select the pharmacy that you want to book.

Henry says there have been a number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities since the new variant was found in B.C., so starting Jan. 1 only essential visitors will be allowed.

“The illness that we’re seeing, particularly in healthcare workers, is starting to have impacts on our healthcare system, and in our long-term care system and yesterday we had a number of outbreaks in long-term care,” Henry says. “So starting tomorrow, recognizing what we are seeing with transmission across the province in our communities, we will be restricting visitors to long-term care to essential visitors only.”

Henry says this move is to prevent outbreaks from these settings, where seniors and those living in long-term care facilities are particularly vulnerable.

Henry also announced changes to the self-isolation requirement.

“If you are unvaccinated, we continue to say that you must isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms began or when your test was positive. There’s no change to this,” Henry says. “But if you are fully vaccinated and either have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving, you no longer have a fever, we are reducing the requirement for self-isolation to five days. After five days if your symptoms have resolved, or mostly improved, you can go back to activities in the community wearing a mask for an additional five days.”

In order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Henry says employers should support their employees to stay home when they’re sick. She says it is also important that employees be allowed to work from home whenever possible.


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